Homeowners Associations (HOAs) come with more than just a sense of community. They also have a set of rules and regulations. However, the fine details can easily become overwhelming for both board members and homeowners alike!
To ensure your HOA runs smoothly without any confusion along the way, you must understand which documents take precedence in your neighborhood association.
A lot of paperwork comes with being a community resident, homeowner’s association (HOA) manager, or HOA board member. And sometimes, it’s challenging to track which document takes precedence.
Is it the covenants and restrictions (C&R)? The declaration of condominium or homeowners association? The rules and regulations?
This article will break down the hierarchy of HOA documents and explain which trumps the other. Keep reading to learn more!
The HOA Document Hierarchy
Here are the documents, in order of precedence, that an HOA may use to govern its actions:
Federal and State Laws
At the very top of the hierarchy sits federal and state laws. These supersede any HOA documents, so it’s essential to ensure your community complies with them. Federal and state laws are pretty straightforward. Next in line are local government ordinances and statutes.
Ordinances are laws passed by a city or county government, while statutes are laws passed by a state legislature. These laws usually deal with zoning, building codes, and noise ordinances.
So remember, in conflicts between HOA documents and federal or state laws, always go with the law.
Next, we have the HOA plat or map. This document is a blueprint for the community and shows the location of things like property lines, easements, and common areas. The plat or map is crucial because it can help settle disputes between neighbors and the HOA.
For example, let’s say your neighbor wants to build a fence, but you think it will infringe on your property line. You can look at the plat or map to see who is right and avoid a costly legal battle.
Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs)
After the plat or map, we have the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs). This document establishes the rules for the operation and the use of the property by members. They are binding on all HOA members and enforceable by the association.
The CC&Rs may be amended from time to time by the membership vote. These amendments require the approval of a majority of the members of the HOA.
Some HOAs also have architectural review committees that review and approve home changes beforehand. This document aims to promote harmonious relations among the members and protect and enhance the property’s value.
The intention is to guide members in their property use and dealings with each other. It covers topics such as landscaping, home maintenance, noise, and pets.
Then we have the bylaws. These are similar to the CC&Rs in that they contain rules for the homeowners, but they tend to be more specific to the homeowners association management itself.
The bylaws will cover how often to have meetings, who can serve on the board and the type of required voting for decisions. Like the CC&Rs, amending bylaws is done by a vote of the homeowners.
Articles of Incorporation
The articles of incorporation are mainly concerned with the legal formation of the HOA itself. They’ll include the HOA’s name, address, and purpose.
The articles of incorporation are important because they establish the HOA as a legal entity. This allows the HOA to enter into contracts, file lawsuits, and perform other legal actions on behalf of the community.
Rules and Regulations
Finally, we have the rules and regulations. The HOA board typically creates these, covering day-to-day operations within the community.
The rules and regulations will cover pool hours, guest policy, and clubhouse usage. They may also include guidelines for specific common areas, such as the tennis courts or playgrounds.
Unlike the CC&Rs and bylaws, the rules and regulations can be changed by the HOA board without homeowners’ votes.
Other HOA Governing Documents
Here are a few other HOA governing documents you should be aware of:
Operating budget: This document contains the HOA’s annual budget, outlining the costs and money spent on things like maintenance, repairs, and improvements.
Reserve study: This document is prepared by a professional and contains information about the HOA’s reserve fund. The reserve fund pays for big-ticket items like roof replacements and pavement repairs.
Insurance policy: This document outlines the coverage provided by the HOA’s insurance policy. It’s important to review this document carefully to ensure adequate coverage.
HOA Documents: Understanding the Interpretation of Rules
Most homeowners’ association (HOA) governing documents are very clear regarding the rules and regulations members must follow. However, there are times when the interpretation of these documents requires questioning.
For instance, if an HOA member violates a rule, the board may need to interpret the language of the governing documents to determine the appropriate course of action.
Additionally, interpreting these documents can be tricky, as they often contain specific language open to multiple interpretations. In some cases, HOA boards may seek the advice of legal counsel to ensure that they are interpreting the documents correctly.
However, one of the most important rules of interpretation is that the entire document is reviewed and interpreted. This implies all provisions arrive at a fair and reasonable understanding of the document. Another important rule is that any ambiguities are construed against the drafter of the document.
This is because one often assumes that the drafter is aware of any ambiguities and has chosen to leave them deliberately. Also, The HOA board members should resolve any conflict between different document provisions in favor of the more specific or detailed option.
Finally, the organization must be consistent in its application of the rules. In other words, they cannot use it to defeat the document’s purpose or create an unjust result.
By understanding these common rules of interpretation, residents can ensure that they correctly follow the HOA’s documents and regulations. This, in turn, can help to create a more harmonious community.
The governing documents of an HOA can be a complex and confusing topic. However, you must understand these documents’ hierarchy and the rules of interpretation that apply to them. By doing so, residents can ensure that they comply with the HOA’s statutes.
Do you have any questions about the hierarchy of HOA documents? Contact us today so we can help you navigate all these documents and answer all your questions.